Friends, family and members of the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars posts in Seymour gathered Wednesday morning to honor American veterans of all wars.
Throughout the ceremony at American Legion Post 89 on West Second Street in the downtown area, freedom was emphasized as a privilege upheld by those who have served.
“Flying our flag of this nation is the privileged duty of every able-bodied American, and the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars will always honor those who go forth in defense of our nation,” said Jack Schrader, a former post commander. “They are the true guardians of freedom.”
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Like many veterans of the U.S. Army in Indiana, Schrader completed his basic training at Fort Knox, Kentucky, before he was sent to South Korea for 13 months to protect the demilitarized zone between that country and North Korea.
Schrader, who was drafted in 1965, returned to the United States in April 1967 and was honorably discharged. He received four combat service medals during his time.
Gary Dyer, chaplain for the VFW post, thanked the veterans in attendance for their service and then reflected on his time in the Army.
Dyer served from 1969 to 1971 during the Vietnam War.
“I woke up this morning thanking God that he gave me another day,” he said. “It’s an honor to stand in front of you today and to speak about something we hold so dearly — the sacrifices of this great nation.”
Dyer spoke about a mission trip he took to the Philippines where he visited the Manila American Cemetery, which has the most graves of U.S. military personnel killed during World War II.
He took a cab to the cemetery and was excited to see the site.
On arrival, Dyer said he walked up the steps to the cemetery and when he reached the top, a wave hit him.
“Instead of excitement, I began to break down and weep,” Dyer said. “I wept because suddenly, I realized that I was standing in the middle surrounded by 152 acres of white marble crosses.”
He said this cemetery meant a lot to him since his father was a World War II veteran.
“I can freely preach Jesus Christ in the Philippines today because of you World War II guys that made the sacrifice,” he said.
Dyer said the war memorial at Gaiser Park in Seymour also was on his mind on Veterans Day.
“The very first time I went to Gaiser Park, as I leaned on that memorial, I realized there is over a million men and women on that memorial that have died for the freedom that we enjoy today,” he said.
Dyer finished his speech talking about a trip he took back to Vietnam in 2004.
He said he went with three other men back to a battlefield where he fought and buried a patch of a friend who had died and a patch of his own.
Dyer said a tank was still there, and he and those with him prayed over 20 men who died that day.
“What a privilege to go back and not hurt anybody, but to go back for healing,” he said.
After the speeches, a color guard comprised of members of both the American Legion and VFW went in front of the building to stand at attention for the flag, fire a salute and salute the flag as “Taps” was played by a bugler.